Worldwide Mining History
Mining is the extraction of valuable minerals or other geological materials from the earth, usually (but not always) from an ore body, vein or (coal) seam. Any material that cannot be grown from agricultural processes, or created artificially in a laboratory or factory, is usually mined.
Mining of stones and metal has been a human activity since pre-historic times. Modern mining processes involve prospecting for ore bodies, analysis of the profit potential of a proposed mine, extraction of the desired materials, and final reclamation of the land after the mine is closed.
Materials mined related to Worldwide Mining are:
- Iron ore (Iron)
- Galena (Lead)
There are many types of mining, but the main ones resulting in mining disasters are mountaintop removal mining, where the overburden on a mountain is pushed off the mountain into the adjacent valley. This is usually done using explosives. Underground mining is another of which there are two main types classified by the characteristic of the rock being mined. Classification is set to either hard rock or soft rock. There are three directions by which an underground mine may be conducted:
- Drift mining, mining horizontally
- Shaft mining, mining vertically
- Slope mining, mining at an inclined angle
Equipment used for excavation:
- Steam shovel, used from the 19th century to the 1930s
- Power shovel, derived from the steam shovel, but using electricity instead of steam
- Excavator, derived from the steam shovel, but using hydraulics or pneumatics instead of steam
- Draglines use buckets attached to long cable lines, rather than affixed to a beam
- Bucket-wheel excavator, the largest moving land machines ever built
- Rock blasting
Explosives used based on the time in history:
- Gunpowder or black powder, used from the 17th century to the mid-19th century
- Dynamite, used from the mid-19th century into the 20th century, still used some today
- ANFO, used from the 20th century, and the primary explosive in use today
History of Mining
Mining, as one of the most ancient industries, has shaped the cultural landscapes and influenced the evolution of civilizations in all parts of the world. Human settlements, traditions, cultures, beliefs, economic and social systems were characterized by the impact of mining throughout history.
Rather than laying out details of mining history, which is interesting and voluminous, please see the links to Mining History below, and the regional history contained within those mining pages.
There are two books that are particularly comprehensive and definitive on the history noted to be excellent for their content. I am providing the information here as well as the synopsis (and declare there is no monetary compensation for doing so).
The second is The History of Mining: The events, technology and people involved in the industry that forged the modern world Hardcover – November 19, 2012 by Michael Coulson. THE INDUSTRY THAT FORGED THE MODERN WORLD
This book traces the history of mining from those early moments when man first started using tools to the present day where metals continue to underpin economic activity in the post industrial age. In doing so, the history of mining methods, important events, technological developments, the important firms and the sparkling personalities that built the industry are examined in detail. At every stage, as the history of mining is traced from 40,000 BC to the present day, the level of detail increases in accordance with the greater social and industrial developments that have played out as time has progressed. This means that a particular focus is given to the period since the industrial revolution and especially the 20th century. A look is also taken into the future in an effort to chart the direction this great industry might take in years to come.
World’s Worst Mining Disasters
Mining accidents are those that occur during the course of mining with coal mining considered the most dangerous due to the characteristics of coal mines. Thousands have died in mining accidents around the world, but with safety measures and government acts instituting mine safety and training, these have decreased significantly, but many still occur with the majority of 20th and 21st century mining deaths occurring in developing nations.
Source info and mining disasters by time may be found in this article: Mining Accident
|Coal Mine Disasters
- The #3 New Yubari, Yubari, Hokkaido, Japan and Onoura, Kirino, Kyu shu, Japan coal mine disasters are included as they are in such close vicinity of the world's 3rd worst mining disaster in history, with the New Yubari, Yubari disaster occurring just 2 weeks prior to that devastating occurrence at the Mitsubishi Hojo Mine.
- Likewise, the 2 India coal mine disasters listed as #10 on the map and table, occurred 10 years apart from each other in the same town and are respectively the 7th and 8th world's worst mining disasters in history.
- Special thanks to Carol MacLean for providing the table above from which I created the Top 13 map. She honors the miners in the CB in Canada, and additional information will be used for the Canada Region pages.
- Special thanks also to The Safety Consortium for graciously granting me permission to print the following article in its entirety regarding the 10 world's worst mining disasters with its specific industry observations.
- TOP 10 MINING DISASTERS May 13, 2014
- Mining is a dangerous industry and has resulted in thousands of deaths caused by a variety of hazards including coal dust explosions, methane gas, rock falls and carbon monoxide poisoning as well as long term health problems such as black lung.
- These are the top ten mining disasters as determined by the number of fatalities, however it needs to be remembered that accurate death tolls were not always available, sometimes because bodies were unable to be recovered, records were incomplete or for political reasons.
- 1 – Honkeiko Colliery, China (April 26, 1942): China has arguably the worst mining record of any country with statistics showing that miners are 350 more times likely to die there than anywhere else. There are still mining deaths occurring in China but the worst occurred in Honkeiko (or Benxihu) Colliery in 1942. When the entrance to the mine collapsed because of a coal dust explosion it trapped thousands of workers, and 1,549 are estimated to have died. In an effort to contain the blaze, the Japanese authorities switched off ventilation, and sealed the mine’s entrance, suffocating the trapped workers.
- 2 – Courrieres, France (March 10, 1906): 1,099 miners died (including many children) in what was the worst ever pit disaster in Europe. A large dust explosion devastated the mine shortly after 6:30 am on Saturday, March 10, 1906.
- 3 – Mitsubishi Hojyo Coal Mine, Kyushu, Japan (December 15, 1914): A deadly gas explosion at the Mitsubishi Hojyo coal minein Kyushu, Japan, killed 687 miners, making it the worst mining disaster in Japan’s history.
- 4 – Coalbrook, South Africa (January 1, 1960): The tragedy of that is the deadliest mining accident in South Africa’s history is compounded by the fact deaths could have been prevented. A rock fall trapped miners in a section of the mine but since the mining company was not equipped with a drill large enough to create an exit for them there was no way to escape. 437 miners perished. To add to this blunder, there had been reports supervisors sent miners exiting the tunnel after earlier rock falls back into the mine.
- 5 – Wankie No.2 Colliery, Wankie, Rhodesia (June 6, 1972): At 10:30am on Tuesday, June 6, 1972 a methane explosion in an extraction panel underneath a mountain called Madumabisa (Wankie No.2 Colliery). The initial explosion was followed shortly after by a coal-dust explosion that swept through the mine at such an incredible speed that not one of the 426 miners killed stood a chance.
- 6 – Dhori Colliery, Dhanbad, India (May 28, 1965): The Dhanbad coal mine disaster occurred on May 28, 1965, in a coal mine near Dhanbad, a town in India. On the fateful day, there was an explosion in Dhori colliery near Dhanbad, which led to fire in the mines. The fire killed 375 miners. Dhori Colliery is located near Bermo.
- 7 – Senghenydd Colliery, Senghenydd, Wales (October 14, 1913): During a time of record coal production, Welsh mining was dogged by poor safety standards with several deadly accidents happening in the early part of the 20th century. The worst was at where 438 men and boys were killed by a methane explosion ignited by coal dust. Only 72 bodies were ever recovered.
- 8 – Coal Mine, Chasnala, India (December 27, 1975): A coal mine in Chasnala near Dhanbad experienced a deadly explosion that resulted in 7,000,000 gallons of water per minute to flood the mine and killed 372 miners, who were trapped under mountains of debris.
- 9 – Oaks Mine, Barnsley, England (December 12, 1866): Several explosions ripped through The Oaks mine killing all but six of the 340 miners working at the time. Several other employees of the colliery and rescuers were killed in the blasts that followed bringing the total number of deaths to 361. A furnace man had a remarkable escape having being knocked to the ground by the force of the explosion he was discovered by rescuers, unconscious, but with a dead cat in his arms.
- 10 – Monongah, West Virginia, USA (December 6, 1907): Believed to be the reason for Father’s Day, the Monongah mining disaster is the worst in American history killing 361 miners. An explosion ripped through the network of mines with such speed and force that some bodies were discovered with food still in their mouths. The official death toll is said to be very conservative with some estimating the total was more than 600 with horrific stories of workers as young as 13 being caught up in the resulting blaze.
- While death and injury can and still do happen, mining safety standards have improved significantly and this is partly due to the advancement of GPS tracking used to improve miner safety.
- Article printed with permission - See Acknowledgment above. Top 10 Mining Disasters
- While the Top 10 does not include mining disasters of the 21st century, there have been several disasters making international news with great loss of life.
- Here are some links of further interest of the world's worst mining catastrophes:
- 5 of the worst mining disasters worldwide – Vantaz
- 9 Worst Coal Mine Catastrophes (PHOTOS) | HuffPost
- Five of the world's worst mining disasters
- Top 10 Worst Coal Mine Disasters - TheStreet
- Top 10 Worst Coal Mine Disasters Investing News Network
- World s Worst Mining Disasters
- World’s worst coal mine disasters - INTERNATIONAL
- Worst Mining Disasters In Human History - WorldAtlas.com
- Coal mining disasters - SourceWatch
- Risk Management – World’s Deadliest Mine Disasters
- The worst mining disasters since 1990 | GulfNews.com
- Top 10 worst mining disasters - Serious Rankings
- FACTBOX-Some of the world's worst mining accidents Reuters
- List of fatal mine disasters in recent years Deseret News
- Six of history's worst mine disasters Inquirer News
- Worst coal mining disaster - death toll Guinness World Records
- These are relevant to mining history:
- Gold Mining History
- History of Gold
- History of Gold
- Gold: History of Use, Mining, Prospecting, Assay & Production
- Gold - World History in Context
- the history of mining timeline Timetoast timelines
- Timeline: A Brief History of Mining
- MERN- History of the Mining Industry
- Metals & Silver
- The history of tungsten, the strongest natural metal on earth MINING.com
- The History of Metals - Visual Capitalist
- The history of metal mining and metallurgy : an annotated bibliography (Book, 1986) [WorldCat.org]
- Mining the History of Precious Metals - dummies
- INFOGRAPHIC: The History of Metals MINING.com
- (1) Amazing Silver Mines in the World - History Documentary - YouTube
- Other sources referenced are those listed under the "Further Reading" links above.
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